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Green ethos is hair today

Élan Hair Design was recently crowned Retail Recycler of the Year at the National Recycling Awards. Andrea Lockerbie takes a closer look at what made it a winner, in the first of a new best practice series

A hairdresser probably isn’t the type of business that you would expect to win a National Recycling Award. But as one of the judges said: “This knocked me off my seat”. The judges were unanimously impressed with this small, family-run business located in the north east of Scotland that had decided to put environmental best practice at the heart of its operation and set a shining example for others.

Located in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, the business was established more than 40 years ago and employs 13 people. During a recent refurbishment project, it decided to review all aspects of its everyday working environment with the simple mantra: can we make it green? This led to the introduction of a number of features, practices and systems that would optimise its environmental performance.

In terms of recycling and waste management, the business both procures products that are sustainable and recycled, and ensures that it sends its waste materials for recycling or composting. Paper, plastic, glass, aluminium, cardboard, batteries and WEEE are all sent for recycling. Its aluminium recycling includes the aluminium foils and empty colour tubes. But more impressively, the salon is the first in the UK to compost hair waste. Hair is sent away to be composted, along with the compostable cleaning towels and capes it procures, its food and other biodegradable waste.

The business actively sources products that are recyclable and contain recycled content, which is why it switched to stocking Aveda products, a company with a similar ethos. It is the first UK salon to install carbon-zero Italian furniture, and has fitted self-cleaning bacteria-resistant floor tiles made from 40% re-constituted materials.

Élan has fully engaged its staff and customers, instilling a culture where a genuine passion for all things green is shared. The impetus behind it all was its commitment to ‘make a difference’ in the local community, particularly to those concerned about their impact on the environment. It now encourages its customers to recycle and offers them eco-friendly measures such as product refills, and shares information on environmental news and events. The staff have regular ‘green’ meetings where they can voice their own ideas and the business provides training to keep them motivated and environmentally aware.

Since the salon’s refurbishment, customer numbers have grown, with a 25% increase in the number of clients visiting the salon in the last year and a 14% increase in turnover. The business has grown rapidly over the past 18 months and has plans to increase its turnover by 20% each year in the next three years. Key to this growth is a significant reduction in costs achieved through improved waste management, including reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and its associated cost.

It also has a Carbon Management Plan, to reduce its carbon emissions by 90% by 2014. So far, it has cut its carbon emissions by 53%. By using photovoltaic panels to generate electricity; solar-thermal panels to provide energy for hot water; LED lighting that uses 80% less electricity, and basins that cut water consumption by 64% - it is also minimising water, heat and power consumption, to generate across the board savings in overheads.

Élan plans to share the ideas innovated at its salon in a formal manner across the industry – as it believes they will ensure its long term success and growth.

“We’re just a little company from Aberdeenshire and to win something like this has been amazing. We’re really chuffed and didn’t expect it, especially as it was such a prestigious vote that we were in for the award.”

Lauren Milton, Elan Hair Design salon coordinator, after winning the award


Category Finalists:

Crest Co-operative - Highly Commended



Drake Bideford

the green house

Turtle Doves

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